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Malawi do better in harem groups with lots of females and one male. Therefore the first plan is not likely to work well.

The second plan has two issues: Maingano are aggressive and often better with 1m:7f in a larger tank. And the mix of labs and estherae is likely to result in cross breeding.

What about 1m:4f of these?
Labidochromis caeruleus (yellow labs)
Cynotilapia sp. hara
Iodotropheus sprengerae (rusties)
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